DETROIT – With the loss of a pair of puck-moving defensemen the Wings have had to change how they play.
And Wings coach Mike Babcock will be the first to admit it.
“We don’t move the puck, so it’s real simple,” Babcock said after Wednesday morning. “When you’ve got (Nicklas) Lidstrom, (Brian) Rafalski, (Brad Stuart) and (Niklas Kronwall), they go back, they turn the corner and they fire it to someone who hasn’t had to work quite as hard to be quite as close, to be in the exact position, we can’t play like that. We have to be closer and tighter and more available and better defensively and sometimes it’s not very pretty, but that’s just the way it is.”
Lidstrom retired in the offseason and Stuart was traded. Rafalski retired two seasons ago.
That has made the Wings dump the puck into the opposing zone more than they would like.
“We’d like not to dump the puck at all,” Babcock said. “The bottom line is the game’s real simple, the more time you spend in your zone, the less time you spend in their zone, the more time you dump the puck because you got no speed on the rush. If you’re efficient coming out and move the puck and you do it right once, you’re coming with speed, you don’t have to dump the puck, you probably get some sort of entry, or at least you give up possession and get it right back.
“Dumping the puck is awful when you’re just dumping it in and changing,” Babcock continued. “Just dump and change, dump and change, you spend the whole game in your own zone wearing yourself out. Our focus is try not to do that and yet there’s parts of the game every night you’re in a bit of a survival mode and you do that.
“We’ve got to help everybody,” Babcock said. “That’s what a team is. A team is helping everybody be the best they can be within the constraints of the team.”